Former West New York Mayor Dr. Felix Roque was paid $53,000 in “speaker’s fees,” along with travel and luxury hotel expense, in order to prescribe a pharmaceutical company’s cancer pain medication, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office alleges.
Between 2013 through 2015, Roque, a pain management specialist, allegedly accepted more than $53,000 in “speaker’s fee” payments from Insys, in addition to meals and travel expenses.
As alleged in the complaint, an Insys sales representative advised her superiors that Roque would not prescribe Subsys “until he attended a conference,” and that he had asked “to be put up” at the Fairmont Princess, a luxury hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Shortly thereafter, Roque attended a conference in Arizona, funded by Insys and subsequently began prescribing Subsys.
The 38-page, seven-count complaint also alleges multiple instances where Subsys was overprescribed for a patient, including one patient that overdosed on the drug.
“We will hold accountable all those whose misconduct has helped fuel the opioid epidemic in New Jersey,” Grewal said in a statement.
“Today, we’re taking action against multiple doctors who sold their medical licenses and prescription pads to Insys and put their personal financial interests above their patients’ health and well-being. These actions should serve notice to those who unlawfully push opioids from their exam rooms that they are not above the law and are no different than those that push heroin on street corners.”
Subsys is one of six transmucosal immediate release fentanyl (“TIRF”) medications that instantly deliver the powerful painkiller fentanyl through the oral membranes.
Since TIRF medicines carry a high risk for misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, and serious complications due to medication error, the FDA has subjected these medications to significant restrictions.
Roque of one of four physicians accused in today’s complaints of prescribing Subsys for patients without cancer, despite the fact that the FDA had approved Subsys only for breakthrough cancer pain in patients who had grown tolerant to other opioids.
In many cases, they prescribed the drug to patients who were already on steady pain management regimes, in amounts that exceeded the authorized starting dosage.
Additionally, the state has a separate lawsuit against Insys Founder John N. Kapoor alleging that he paid bribes to the doctors who participated in the speaker’s program in exchange for inappropriately prescribing Subsys.
Back in 2016, the AG’s office accused Roque of a taking nearly $250,000 in a commercial bribery scheme related to his medical practice, but he was acquitted of those charges.
Roque declined to comment this afternoon.